Will China and India Unleash a Nuclear War?
On the Indian-Chinese border restless. Nuclear powers accuse each other of provocations, no matter the week - new incidents. India is deploying three corps on the northern frontier, China is pulling up forces in Tibet. The reason for all this was the attempt of Chinese military engineers to build a small highway through a plateau blown by all the winds.
“This is our territory, please leave it immediately. This is our territory, please leave it immediately, ”the soldier in light camouflage with the patch of the Indo-Tibetan border police monotonously repeats to a couple of dozen Chinese soldiers standing on the bank of the highland lake Bangong Tso. It usually works, especially since his comrades are visible behind the patrol: frontier guards and soldiers who are ready to intervene in the event of an incident.
A fight on the lake (video frame)
Usually - but not this time. Instead of leaving, the Chinese are bending down and picking up stones.Stone hail is poured on Indian soldiers. They respond in the same way, a scuffle is started. In the hands of the border guards flashed steel sticks and batons. In the end, the officers manage to somehow restore order, forcing their soldiers to stop throwing stones. Both groups - both Chinese and Indians - unfurl state flags, chant "This is our land!" And then disperse, taking away their victims: several people from the Indian side and as many from the Chinese side.
An ordinary skirmish in the highland region of Ladakh immediately turned into the number one topic in the Indian media. Just a couple of months ago nobody would have paid attention to this news - but now almost every iron is heard about it. And it is not surprising: the stone-throwing on the coast of Bangong Tso is only one of the episodes of the protracted border conflict between India and China, which is causing increasing concern in Beijing and New Delhi.
On the border of the clouds walk gloomily
The lake itself has no strategic significance: simply amazingly beautiful mountain reservoir, whose name translates as “Lake of high meadows”. The water in Bangong Tso is salty, you can't drink it,boating on it is also strictly prohibited - to avoid problems: the actual control line dividing the territory of India and China runs along the lake.
The border between India and China is long and torn only in two places - where Nepal and Bhutan. It was originally established in 1914, when the Secretary of the Government of British India for Foreign Affairs, Henry McMahon, signed the Simla Convention with Tibet.
After India gained independence and Tibet returned under Chinese rule, a conflict arose between Beijing and New Delhi: The Chinese claimed that the Tibetan authorities had no right to make arrangements to bypass the Beijing government, and the Indians considered Line McMagon to be completely legitimate.
It's all over the war. In 1962, as a result of a brief but bloody conflict, the Indian army suffered a crushing defeat. The Chinese occupied the strategically important region of Aksai-Chin in the western part of the border, which allowed them to link the most unstable regions to Tibet and Xinjiang. The new frontier is called the Line of Actual Control.Now it is, in fact, the border between the two states.
The problem is that this line is still not demarcated. That is not only that Aksai-Chin itself is a disputed territory, so almost throughout the entire Line of actual control there are separate disputed areas - as on the bank of Bangong Tso.
Why are both sides so desperately holding on to a small piece of shore? Almost all of the key heights along the border are in the hands of the Chinese, and every knoll matters - especially for Indians trying to maintain at least some parity.
Chinese artillery demonstrates firepower at a range in Tibet (video frame)
Another problematic part of the border lies in the east - it divides China and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (literally, “Land of Mountains Flooded with Light”). The Chinese believe that this territory was illegally rejected from them by the British, and even called Arunachal Pradesh Southern Tibet. In 1962, having defeated the Indian forces, the Chinese occupied most of the state, but then they suddenly withdrawn the troops, returning all the prisoners. As Chairman Mao announced, People’s China taught India a lesson to be remembered there for a long time.
The humiliating defeat firmly settled in the memory of the Indian military and politicians. A few years ago, after learning that China intended to build a railway along the entire line of the eastern part of the border, the Indians launched a frenzy of activity, erecting more and more railway and road bridges with the expectation that they could bear the weight of the main battle tanks. Unlike Aksai-Chin, at the turn of Arunachal Pradesh, the sides are approximately in the same position, and there, in the event of the outbreak of war, everything depends mainly on who will be the first to deploy the forces and ensure their continued supply.
Indian Patrol on the McMahon Line
The only part of the border, which is properly demarcated, recognized and is not in doubt, is the central one that divides the territory of the PRC and the Indian state of Sikkim. The Indian military feel confident here: all the dominant heights and passes in their hands. And it was there, ironically, that the current border conflict began, almost becoming an armed confrontation.
Little road and big conflict
The Dolam Highland Plateau blown by all winds at the junction of three borders - India,China and Bhutan are so small and its name is so similar to the nearby Doklam Plateau, another disputed territory that they are often confused, denoting a conflict zone in a completely different place. Indians and Bhutanese are convinced that the Dales belong to Bhutan; the Chinese consider it their territory.
A few years ago, the Chinese military builders carried out another labor feat, stretching the road through the Himalayas to the Doka-La pass, which was firmly saddled by Indian border guards. Then the Indians closed their eyes to this, but in early June, when the Chinese decided that the road should be extended to the south, in the direction of the Gimphri range, politicians and military in New Delhi were outraged.
The fact is that if the Chinese come to Gimphri and occupy the dominant heights, then they will have nothing left to do with Siliguri’s narrow corridor, which in the press and even in scientific works is lyrically called “Chicken Neck” or “Chicken Neck”. This strip of Indian land connects the north-eastern states of India, also known as the "Seven Sisters", with the main territory of the country. If an armed conflict begins, the Chinese will have enough hours to cut India in two.
And it's not just that. Bhutan is a client state of India, which at one time agreed to sacrifice independence in foreign policy in exchange for the protection that the great southern neighbor should provide. If it turns out that the Bhutanese were counting on it in vain, then India would have to bid farewell to the dreams of regional leadership and the prospects for becoming a great power. Who will believe a country that failed to keep its promise and help the closest ally?
Therefore, a couple of days after the Chinese began to build the road to Gimphri, the Indian military blocked their way. There was a scuffle - fortunately without arms, the victims on both sides escaped with light abrasions. The Chinese stopped the construction of the road - at least temporarily - but were extremely offended: in Beijing, they said that they had notified the Indians through the embassy channels of the upcoming work. In New Delhi, they announced that they had not received any warnings, and accused Chinese builders of demolishing two Indian bunkers that stood in the way of the future highway.
PLA artillery drills in Tibet (video frame)
Fake news and an attack of peace
The situation heated in a matter of days.The media on both sides fueled passions: the Chinese published photos of the 1962 war, the Indians recalled the conflict five years later, when the Chinese, trying to take passes, suffered heavy losses and withdrew. The sides pulled the troops up to the brigade to the disputed area, and the Chinese decided to conduct demonstration artillery exercises near the border.
And just at their height, the Pakistani news agency Dunya News published the following information: parts of the People’s Liberation Army of China launched an artillery attack on an Indian border checkpoint in Sikkim, more than a hundred and fifty Indian soldiers died. The message was accompanied by photographs of burning trucks and one killed Indian Army soldier.
On the indian-chinese border
There was a shocked silence in the Chinese and Indian segments of the Internet, while the Pakistani rejoiced. Only a few hours later, which were clearly spent on figuring out what had happened, Beijing and New Delhi reported: information is fake, in the photo is the result of Pakistani shelling of one of the Indian border posts in Kashmir, where two people died.After that, the tone of the press on both sides changed as if by magic: not a word about war. We will not give up our claims, we wrote to the media, but the conflict must be resolved peacefully.
A few days later, Advisor to the Indian Prime Minister on National Security Ajit Doval went to Beijing for a meeting within the framework of the BRICS. At the talks, it was decided: India and China withdraw troops from the conflict zone. Both New Delhi and Beijing fulfilled this agreement, but the attack of peace was not long enough. India soon transferred parts of the 33rd corps to Sikkim, began to deploy two more corps in Arunachal Pradesh, and in Chinese social networks photos of the equipment being transferred to Tibet flashed. A recent incident with stones and batons on Lake Bangong-Tso just threw wood on the re-burning fire.
A war that no one needs
Nevertheless, in spite of all the ominous statements and movements of the troops, now they do not want a big war either in New Delhi or in Beijing. There is too much risk that someone will press the red button.
Small border conflict is also not an option. No matter how he ends, both sides will lose. Defeat will mean an automatic rejection of claims for regional leadership, for which India and China are fighting.The victory will cause a surge of suspicion and accusations of expansionist plans and the desire to subjugate all the countries of the region. Given how much money and strength Beijing and New Delhi have invested in bringing the world community exclusively to peace-loving countries over the past decades, the price of victory will be too high.
But a random shot at the border can lead to an escalation of the conflict against the wishes of the parties. Especially to prevent this from happening, Indian and Chinese generals and colonels along the border line are now meeting with any hint of a possible incident, solving issues at the local level. So, unless something completely unexpected happens, a nuclear war is not expected.